Shipping and Moving to Costa Rica – Cars – Personal

Limon is the main port on Costa Rica Caribbean to ship your personal itmes.

Limon is the main port on Costa Rica's Caribbean to ship your personal items.

Okay, you want to pull up stakes and move to Costa Rica … now what is it going to cost?

It’s important to understand that shipping anything to Costa Rica, expect the unexpected, because Costa Rica is known for its very high import duties. The two  shipping ports are Limon (Caribbean side) and Puntarenas (Pacific Side).

After several garage sales and dealing with idiots on Craig’s List, your have narrowed it down to a large room full of personal items. The cheapest way to ship is by a 40 foot Cargo Container and ship (if you can) from the closest port. In the US that would be Miami.

Costa Rican Customs Law has several articles that covers the importation of USED (Do Not Stuff the Cargo Container with New Items, the duties/tax will break you) household goods and personal effects and the duties will vary depending on how and when you import your goods. In other words, some items will not be taxed under one article and some will be taxed under another article.  I know this sounds weird, but the difference depends on how and when you import them with the below criteria:

  • The importer must have entered Costa Rica within 90 days prior to clearing Customs.
  • The items must be for personal use and cannot be intended for resale.
  • The items must be used. (more then 6 months old).
  • The importer has to be an adult.

Now if the above shipment meets those criteria, the following items are exempt of duties:

Personal effects such as clothes, shoes, purses, pictures, videos, CDs, DVDs, hand tools for household use (and not commercial tools like table saws and drill presses), portable gym equipment, beds, chairs and fake plants.

DO NOT try and ship guns or ammo or anything that might be declared illegal.

All other items pay the same percentage of duties as new items. This does not mean they pay the same amount in duties.

Duties will be based on the CIF (Cost + Insurance + Freight) and value of the good. Because of this, the amount you pay in freight will affect the duties. Most of the time, its better to ship in quantity because the more you ship, the lower the shipping costs per weight of volume and therefore the lower proportional duties you need to pay.

The biggest expense is shipping a vehicle. Shipping prices vary depending on size of car and whether or not is a roll-on (drive it off) or shipped in container and what size of container.

A friend a few years back shipped a Ford Ranger (small pickup) from Miami, and shared a larger container (40 foot long) with another person and his cost was only $625.

However, once the car is in Costa Rica the problems and real expenses start. The car is taxed not by its value and its condition but against it original price. Duties are calculated by taking the higher value between the infamous Costa Rica Black Book (not Blue Book) which is based on the Average Retail Value and the value that the Ministerio de Hacienda puts on it, and God-knows what that is.

And because of this, a lot of cars and new property for that matter are abandoned after arrival because of the cost and complexities of getting it out of customs can break you.

Please note, these rates have changed based on the New Year, but it will give you an idea of the additional costs to expect ON TOP of the shipping.

Car models Years 2004-2007 pay 55%
Car models Years 2000-2001 pay about 65%
Car models Years 1999 and older pay about 80%
And these costs can change without notice.

To get an idea go to the below links and they should be able to give you a quote and they will ONLY give an estimate on what to expect on Costa Rica duties/taxes.

Auto Car Shippers
Freight Calculator
Limon Agency

Costa Rica Medical
Calypso Cruises

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  1. ginger says:

    Custom has gotten ridiculous with their prices and taxes. It is the HIGHEST TAXES IN ALL CENTRAL AMERICA. Where does this money go?  Not for roads.    Buy a home furnished or a rental fully furnished and same thousands of dollars. My friend just had to pay $28,000 in taxes for her USED FURNITURE. If she had known this she would have left it in Texas. They have gotten out of control…

    • ginger says:

      Dont pay these guys who say they can help… they cant do anything but pay off some one MAYBE…. SHE TRIED THAT AND IT TOOK 3 MONTHS TO GET HER STUFF.


  2. We have services international moving clients since 1991 moving from USA to Costa Rica. and

  3. Our agent in Costa Rica can help all of you. Betty Torres. Let me know or contact via our website which is mentioned at top of this blog. USA tel 3055970258 APX

  4. Carine Boulogne says:

    We have brought a house in Puerto Viejo and have shipped a container to Limon.  We are now waiting for 5 weeks to get our container from customers to our place.
    A agent is occuped with it but there is no changement for the moment.
    Is there someone how has the same problems ? And tell us what we can do about it ?
    Thanks for you help !

    • admin says:

      There are many brokers that can help, what has become a good source of info is visit Costa Rica’s Craigs List under services.

  5. johnny says:

    Hi im currently located at san jose but im trying to get a motorcycle all the way from texas, but i havent been able to locate the value assigned by hacienda to motorcycles, anybody has a clue on that?

  6. Dear Friends,

    Good day!

    Here is our rates list,if you need more rates. please contact to me.

    ShenZhen/HongKong/NingBo/ShangHai/QingDao—-Puerto quetzal/Acajutla/Puerto caldera
    All IN:USD1200/2300/2400

    ALL IN:USD1200/2300/2500

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  7. Vernon says:

    Bought home in Costa Rica on Lake Arenal. Would like to ship container. What information can you give me, as far a cheapest way. Just a 20′. I have been getting all price ranges. But wonder if it is worth it.

  8. Hara Maderich says:

    Does anyone know how you’d go about buying one of the abandoned vehicles at auction? We thought about buying from a rental car company too. Any thoughts?

    • admin says:

      We understand that those cars are reserved for dealers with special licenses and government officials. In otherwords, not a public auction…

  9. any suggestions for sending personal effects to costa rica from montreal. thinking more like two barrels

  10. Jassue says:

    READERS, we just moved to Ciudad Colon,Costa Rica from Florida, our movers Inter Moves SG Global, SA shipped us door to door and had a great experience with them, mostly through Costa Rica´s customs, wow wow.
    Contact Jose Antonio 2258 0018,
    Call him, tell him I sent you.

  11. Karen Kennedy says:

    any suggestions on trustworthy companies to ship personal items?

    • admin says:

      Might want to check out the links on the post, and the link that the one make a comment on …

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